Titan Current Affairs - 2019
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National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently announced its plan to launch Dragonfly drone helicopter to Saturn’s largest moon Titan in search of building blocks of life.
About NASA’s Dragonfly Mission
It is part of space agencies quest to search for building blocks of life and will aim towards collecting samples and examining sites around Saturn’s icy moon, Titan. Dragonfly will launch be launched in 2026 and will arrive at its destination in 2034.
The rotorcraft will fly to dozens of promising locations on icy moon Titan looking for prebiotic chemical processes common on both Titan and Earth.
Dragonfly marks the 1st time NASA will fly a multi-rotor vehicle for science on another planet. It will become 1st vehicle ever to fly its entire science payload to new places for repeatable and targeted access to surface materials.
It has 8 rotors and flies like a large drone.
It will take advantage of Titan’s dense atmosphere which is 4 times denser than Earth.
The instruments attached will search for chemical evidence of past or extant life.
Saturn’s largest moon Titan is the only celestial body besides Earth that is known to have liquid rivers, lakes and seas on its surface, although these contain hydrocarbons like methane and ethane, not water. It is considered to be a richly organic world of its own and is viewed by scientists as an equivalent of very early-era Earth. Thus it can provide clues to how life may have arisen on Earth.
Like Earth’s, Titan’s atmosphere is made mostly of nitrogen (N), but it is 4 times denser.
Titan is 2nd-largest moon in solar system. It has a thick water ice crust, beneath which is an ocean made primarily of water and also its clouds and rains are methane.
Using data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, scientists have found that Saturn’s largest moon Titan has small liquid lakes that run more than 100 metres deep, perched atop hills and filled with methane.
What are the Findings?
The findings published in the journal titled Nature Astronomy make the following observations:
- Titan has landforms akin to Mesas towering above the nearby landscape, topped with liquid lakes more than 300 feet deep comprised mainly of methane.
- Scientists suspect the lakes were formed when surrounding bedrock chemically dissolved and collapsed a process which occurs with a certain type of lake on Earth.
- The scientists also observed “phantom lakes” on Titan that during wintertime appeared to be wide but shallow ponds but perhaps were only a few inches deep and evaporated or drained into the surface by springtime, a process taking seven years on Titan.
- The findings also presented evidence about Titan’s hydrological cycle, with liquid hydrocarbons raining down from clouds, flowing across its surface and evaporating back into the sky which is comparable to Earth’s water cycle.
- Scientists suspect Titan could potentially could harbour life possibly in the surface bodies of liquid hydrocarbons because of Titan’s complex chemistry and distinctive environments.
Titan which is the moon of Saturn has a diameter of 5,150 km and is the solar system’s second largest moon, behind only Jupiter’s Ganymede. It is bigger than the planet Mercury.
Titan is the most Earth-like body in the solar system. It has lakes, canyons, rivers, dune fields of organic sand particles about the same size as silica sand grains on Earth.